European Western Balkans

Elections in Kosovo – A breeze of hope or a bursting bubble?

Elections in Kosovo; Photo: Tanjug

On the 6th of October, the citizens of Kosovo will head towards hundreds of polling stations. Unlike other Sundays, this one will be special. On this day, citizens will decide the course of their country for the next four years. Yet what will make this Sunday even more important is that their vote might not only determine who the next Prime Minister of Kosovo will be but it might as well set the course for one of the most important issues on Kosovo’s foreign policy plate – the EU facilitated normalization process with Serbia.

Extraordinary elections were called after less than two years of a government led by a coalition of parties formed in 2017 just a few minutes before the application deadline for certification of political parties for election process ended. This abrupt ‘marriage’ took a set of popular measures such as the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into Kosovo Army and the 100% import tariff on the goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina but also unpopular ones starting with the setting up an inflated government of 33 ministers, 72 plus deputy ministers, of numerous national and regional coordinators.

For months in the public discourse, its demise was a recurring topic. The two major opposition parties LDK and LVV questioned its legitimacy, demanding early elections due to its fragile majority. The governing coalitions composed of PDK, AAK, NISMA, and AKR indeed lacked the majority of seats in the Parliament faced with an ever boycotting partner (formally and informally) the Beograd-backed Serb party– the Serb List. Thus elections were always the elephant in the room.

Nevertheless, the call of Prime Minister Haradinaj to resign due to an invitation for an interview by the Specialist Chambers of Kosovo as he declared, found the political parties unprepared for an election process. Yet they soon got mobilized and started to frame their electoral messages and governing programs in what was and still remains a very competitive election amongst coalitions and political parties.

It is unpredictable who will be the winner of the next elections. Everyone seems to be in the game for the first prize, more realistically it can be expected that one of the three bigger parties namely LDK, VV and PDK will win.  Nevertheless, the electoral process in Kosovo will demand the winner to form a coalition government, a rather challenging process that might take a few months.

No matter who wins, the key task of the next government is predetermined by this short-lived government which showcased, amongst others, the internal divide within Kosovo’s political scene on the issue of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

But foremost, during the tenure of which, it saw a return of US interest in the Western Balkans especially in the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia which started with the official letters sent by President Trump to both President of Kosovo and Serbia supporting and inciting them to sign a comprehensive legally binding agreement. Latter with the appointment of the Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer as State Secretary’s Special Representative for the region and just recently this Thursday the US invested interested was reinforced when President Trump appointed the U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as a special envoy for the peace talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

The future Prime Minister will have to navigate in a divided international scene, lacking unity even amongst the Quint countries regarding the Kosovo-Serbia process, while awaiting the EU to determine its position in this process.  He or she is as well left to deal with the difficult task of reaching a wider political consensus on this issue and working relation with President Thaçi who has been part of the negotiation process since the beginning and odds are that he’ll continue to remain part of it.

While immediately having to find answers for dialogue related fierce issues starting with the 100% tariff placed as a reaction of Kosovo government against Serbia’s diplomatic campaign against the state of Kosovo, the removal of which became a condition by Serbia to return to the dialogue process, translated into an international pressure over Kosovo.

The so-called ‘border correction’ backed by President Hashim Thaçi and opposed by Prime Minister Haradinaj and the majority of political parties which is often related to land swap between the northern Serb majority municipalities of Kosovo with southern part representing Albanian majority municipalities in Serbia. An issue that tore apart the international community and raised a lot of concerns regarding the potential precedent it might set for the rest of the Western Balkan region and beyond.

The future of the association of Serb majority communities, the competences of which could vary from that of a simple NGO to the third level of governance in Kosovo which could jeopardize the very functionality of the state of Kosovo and replicate the Republika Srpska. While having to address the integration of the Serb community in the multiethnic state of Kosovo. But also the fate of the missing people whose families were promised to find resolute within the dialogue process will be an issue alongside other war-related crimes including justice for the victims of sexual violence during the Kosovo war.

The future is unpredictable. Yet the run-up to the elections has brought a breeze of hope for all citizens who want to see change and demand a state which fights corruption, guarantees quality education and access to good health services, a state where rule of law reigns and employment is a priority. They want to live in peace and prosperity.

Whether the new elections in Kosovo will bring a breeze of hope when dealing with paramount issues determining more than just a four-year period for Kosovo or a bursting bubble of hope – it remains to be seen.

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